Agile Practices and
Agile Practices and Installation Development
Agile Practices and
Both commercial and custom application development
projects are increasingly using agile processes to deliver
software. Agile processes are characterized by multiple
iterations and frequent delivery of working software to users,
who provide rapid and almost continuous feedback on
the scope and direction of the application. This approach
enables teams to successively refine the look and feel of
software, while also making rapid changes to feature sets in
response to changing business opportunities.
However, the ability to create and manage a flexible
installation package is a critical part of meeting the goals
of agile projects. Good installation development solutions
enable teams to rapidly deliver new builds into a single
package that allows customers to easily install and uninstall,
supporting several of the most important goals of agile
development practices. Agile teams focus on delivering
software iteratively with a positive user experience and seek
an automated solution for developing installation packages.
Business Drivers of Agile Development
The business environments that are served by the many
software applications available tend to change rapidly.
Business groups are driven by market opportunities,
regulatory and legal changes, new business relationships,
and staff changes. Often these occur with little or no
forewarning, and windows of opportunity tend to close
quickly. New applications or new features to existing
applications are often needed in order to take advantage of
These realities apply to packaged commercial applications
as well as in-house custom applications. Customer needs
change quickly, and missing out on those needs may drive
them to seek other alternatives.
An application can commonly take a year or more in
development and test prior to release. Even adding new
features to an existing application typically takes at least
several months of effort. In traditional methodologies,
requirements are frozen at the beginning of the process to
make for a predictable development effort, with little or no
further input from the user community until the software is
delivered. While there is sometimes a period of beta testing
just prior to final delivery, the purpose of beta testing is to
identify defects, not change features or look and feel.
If user or business needs change in the interim, there is
little that a development team can do to adjust to new
requirements. In most cases, changing requirements or
adding new requirements adds a significant amount of
additional time and money to the development effort.
In other words, traditional ways of developing software
weren’t designed for the needs of business today.
These business realities have led development teams to
adopt agile techniques in order to better meet the needs of
the user community. Agile development enables teams to:
• Get important features into the hands of users more
quickly by iterating development on a few features
at a time.
• Make mid-course corrections based on changing
business needs, in response to changes in user needs
during the course of the project.
• Fine-tune features and user interfaces with regular user
feedback, based on the iterative releases.
Even teams building commercial packaged software find
agile methodologies useful. In addition to being able
to deploy a few compelling features quickly, it provides
Agile Practices and Installation Development
for a mechanism to adjust the feature set based on new
technologies or large shifts in their target markets.
Commercial application developers usually do not seek
to satisfy a single customer or group of users. But timely
feedback from multiple customers can help product
managers and development teams make adjustments on
subsequent iterations in response to feedback from early
adopters willing to work with multiple releases.
Common Characteristics of Agile Processes
There are many different agile methodologies, including
Scrum, Feature-Driven Development, and Extreme
Programming. Choosing a specific agile methodology often
depends on the previous experience of team members. In
practice, many teams research agile methodologies and
pick and choose individual techniques and practices that
best match their skills and culture.
While agile methodologies vary in a number of details,
there are several common characteristics. First, agile
teams develop software in a series of iterations, typically
ranging from one week to one month. This enables teams
to focus intently on only a few features, for a limited
period of time, and deliver those features to the best of
their ability. Successive iterations are planned just prior to
execution. They may be used to add additional features,
make changes to existing features, or address defects or
Agile methodologies place a premium on delivering
working software at the end of each iteration. This means
that the team is building early and often, finding and
fixing defects in real time, and making sure that most
builds result in software that can be installed and used.
Working software requires enabling the user community to
easily install and start using the software, and to replace it
seamlessly once a new iteration becomes available.
Daily or continuous integration of each developer’s code
support the ability to deliver working software. Each
integration is verified by an automated build to detect
integration errors as quickly as possible. Many teams find
that this approach leads to significantly reduced integration
problems and allows a team to develop cohesive software
Agile methodologies also depend on talented and
motivated developers. Often developers who make up agile
teams are specialists who work in different geographic
locations, and collaborate at a distance. These professionals
are able to work independently on specific components
while also ensuring that everything is able to work together
Limitations of Agile
Despite the apparent benefits, agile methodologies can
also create challenges development teams must overcome.
Probably the most significant challenge is delivering
software that cleanly installs and uninstalls at the end of
each iteration. In many cases, Registry keys are either
skipped entirely, necessitating temporarily setting paths
or privileges. Or users are required to manually move files
around and set individual Registry keys.
Frequently, either the team delivers a zipped set of files that
has little organization or installation integrity, or it works
an inordinately long time after each iteration to ensure
that installation is safe and convenient for users. Neither
alternative represents an efficient use of time or resources.
Because agile teams may be geographically distributed,
development must be planned out carefully, enabling
individual developers to write code to a defined set
of interfaces. In most cases, geographically separate
developers or small teams may each hold parts of the
installation code, which must be put together seamlessly
in order for the installation project to build and execute
successfully. Even with close coordination, initial builds and
installation success requires a lot of back-and-forth between
As a result, agile teams tend to struggle with installation.
This is especially a problem in agile development, with its
many delivery requirements and little ability to move around
tasks when delays occur. These limitations call for a better
way to develop installation projects for applications that
are developed iteratively and delivered to users in several
Best Practices for Application Installation
Installation is a vitally important component of an agile
development effort. Without the ability to quickly and easily
install and uninstall successive versions of an application,
it is impossible to obtain user feedback on the quality
and direction of those features. Further, difficult or time-
consuming installation and uninstallation will cause users to
become reluctant to continue to use the software, depriving
them of the immediate benefits of new features.
Software teams who practice agile development, therefore,
desire best practices in order to offer the best user
experience, deal with fewer support calls, and achieve
greater acceptance of their software. Teams should plan
for installation as a part of scoping and designing the
application, with a determination of the files required,
privileges and locations of those files, required Registry
keys and locations for those keys, directories used, and
components to conditionally install. Once the design is
complete, install should be developed concurrently with one
of the first iterations.
As development teams strive for the first successful build of
a new project, they must also focus on the complete install
package for that build. Even adding files or other objects
at a later time should be straightforward as long as the
fundamental architecture is solid.
Agile Practices and Installation Development
Because agile teams are likely employing continuous
integration practices, installation should also be a
part of that practice. In addition to integrating,
building, and testing all software on an ongoing basis,
the team should also integrate and build the necessary
Finally, teams should leverage automation where possible.
According to the principles of the Agile Manifesto, simplicity
in learning and use is essential. Therefore any automation
has to be simple, flexible, and configurable. By choosing
the right tools to enable automation of specific activities,
an agile process can be significantly improved.
Agile Installation and InstallShield
Packaging and installation should support the
organization’s business objectives. In many cases, this
means making multiple applications and components
available through a single installation process. Packaging
and installation should also simplify development, licensing,
and maintenance, rather than making it more complex.
Flexera Software’s InstallShield, the longtime leader in
installation development for Windows applications,
enables traditional and agile development teams to
address their installation authoring needs so they can
deliver software iterations quickly.
InstallShield provides the flexibility required by fast-moving
agile teams in creating and offering application installation
options. For example, release engineers can use the
InstallShield Standalone Build to automate nightly builds
of installations and help development teams to implement
continuous build integration. Because nightly or continuous
builds are an essential part of any agile practice, the
Standalone Build ensures that the project is ready to deploy
once an iteration is completed.
The teams can set up the nightly or continuous build
process to include not just the application builds, but
also the installation builds. The build can include a single
application, or, with the new suite support in InstallShield
2012 Spring, a suite composed of several separate
applications, as well as associated prerequisite components.
The installation is ready for regular testing throughout the
development process, and when development and testing
are complete, is ready for distribution.
The InstallShield automation interface enables team
members to use a script to add new files, add or
delete features, initiate the build process, and change
product name and upgrade code, release settings,
summary information stream items, release flags, and
The newly enhanced InstallShield 2012 Spring
Collaboration add-on enables individual development team
members to contribute to the development of the installation
simultaneously throughout each iteration. Each developer
or tech writer can create on one or more developer
installation manifests (DIMs)—feature-sized collections of
related items such as application files, shortcuts, registry
entries, and other elements that together make up a
discrete, logically separated portion of the installation.
Teams can integrate DIMs into multiple installation projects,
reusing them as needed, enabling efficiency.
The agility of InstallShield is demonstrated by the ability of
teams to create an integrated package that serves the needs
of a wide range of customers and users. These include
the ability to easily bundle multiple products together into
a single, unified suite installation eliminating the need
to develop a complex custom launcher or bootstrapper
application, incorporate both 32-bit and 64-bit install
packages, give end users the option of running suite
installations with a user interface or silently, allow the
installation developer to specify whether to show a single
entry for the entire suite in Add or Remove Programs, and
provide that developer with complete and centralized
control over the user experience design.
With these features, agile teams can easily set up
installation projects concurrent with initial iterations, and
keep installations up to date as they plan and execute
subsequent iterations. A typical install development scenario
starts with individual members of the team working on
installation units that correspond to their development
responsibilities. As the team members are working
independently, their installation components have to work
together when integrated. Those components combine as
units of the integrated installation package.
InstallShield features and capabilities enable these
teams to meet their application delivery needs on
schedule and with high quality. Whether the project is
an individual application or a complex suite of products
and components, InstallShield enables teams using agile
or traditional development processes to quickly and
accurately build installation packages, integrate those
packages if needed, and meet business objectives by
providing customers and users flexibility in selecting and
licensing only the needed applications.
As agile development teams seek to deliver the right
software to users early and often, installation can no
longer take a back seat to features and bug fixes. Teams
can plan for installation as they begin the project, and
use automated tools such as InstallShield to prepare and
manage the installation package for iterative releases. The
result is the ability to deliver a great initial user experience
with multiple iterations of an application, while easing the
workload and stress on the development team.